Of all the cards that will be released with Commander 2019, K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth has sparked the most discussion. Will he see play in eternal formats? Will he crush competitive commander and get banned? I’m not here to answer those questions! Today, we’re going to look at some ways to use K’rrik’s abilities that will leave your opponents thinking “…wow, there must have been a better way to accomplish that.”
K’rrik lets us pay life instead of black mana for any cost with a black mana symbol. This can encourage two sorts of strategy: using life to power out big spells earlier than normal, or using life to cast lots of spells at a time. K’rrik also gets a +1/+1 counter each time we cast a black spell, which further encourages the “many spells” strategy, so that’s where we’ll look first.
Free Life Drain (With Purchase)
First on our synergies schedule is not just a card, it’s a whole mechanic: extort! Hybrid mana symbols are compatible with K’rrik’s ability, which means that we can pay life instead of mana for extort triggers. Assuming we have three opponents, every extort trigger allows us to pay two life (using K’rrik) to gain three life and drain each opponent for one. Pontiff of Blight is especially powerful in combination with K’rrik because the life paid to each extort trigger is immediately regained, so we can pay for as many extort triggers as we can get. Essentially, every spell we cast (with K’rrik, a Pontiff, and three opponents) makes each opponent lose X life and we gain X life, where X is the number of creatures we control.
Exquisite Blood makes our extort triggers gain us tons of extra life, as well as adding bonus life gain to anything we do that hurts our opponents. With it on the battlefield, we can focus less on maintaining our own life total and more on killing our opponents. Also, it has nothing to do with K’rrik but I would feel irresponsible if I didn’t mention that Exquisite Blood and Sanguine Bond create an instant-win combo the moment you gain life or an opponent loses life. They will trigger one another until all your opponents are dead.
Aetherflux Reservoir is another fantastic enabler for K’rrik. If we’re paying life to cast a lot of spells, why not gain life for every spell we cast? The Reservoir isn’t our best win condition, since we will be paying life almost as fast as we gain it, but it will fuel our spell-slinging nicely.
Tainted Sigil can refill our life total after a long turn of spell casting, plus if we have caused opponents to lose life we will gain that much life as well! Note that Tainted Sigil tracks all life that is lost in a turn, not just the amount of life players currently have compared to how much they used to have. If we’re gaining life as well as paying life, we’ll need to carefully track the number of life we’re paying, as well as the life our opponents are losing, in a given turn. If we ever get low, we can sacrifice Tainted Sigil for a HUGE chunk of life and keep the party rolling!
Hire a Broker
With all that life flowing in, we’ll need a steady flow of cards to spend it on! Of course there are spells like Sign in Blood and Succumb to Temptation that draw us cards, but these are not permanent options. Greed allows us to simply pay four life to draw a card, and Arguel’s Blood Fast does the same but for one additional mana – worth playing perhaps, but nothing to write home about… But enough beating around the bush. There is one card-drawing card that is absolutely insane with K’rrik:
For every black cost that we pay with life, Vilis, Broker of Blood lets us draw two cards! If we somehow run out of cards to cast, Vilis has an ability we can activate by paying four life, allowing us to draw four cards! That kind of card draw makes our deck into a black-spell-casting engine that will chug along until our supply of cards runs out. With a source of life gain, K’rrik, and Vilis on the battlefield, it’s pretty easy to see every card in our library in a single turn.
If we don’t have Vilis at our disposal, we can use Alhammarret’s Archive to help us out with life gain and card draw, doubling both! That makes it extremely unlikely that our well-oiled spell-casting machine will sputter out before we’re ready.
The Meat and Potatoes
So we’re able to cast a ton of spells using life, drawing cards, replenishing our life resource… what are we actually casting? I’m tempted to say “It doesn’t matter!” but that’s not a fun answer. Here’s some of my favorite cards that only cost black mana to cast:
Geralf’s Messenger, Phylactery Lich, Relentless Dead, and Zombie Trailblazer are powerful creatures, and there are enough other black-cost zombies to make tribal worth doing. We can pay life with K’rrik to bring Relentless Dead back whenever it dies, and Zombie Trailblazer lets us attack with zombies unblocked.
Gifted Aetherborn, Bloodghast, Gatekeeper of Malakir, Kalastria Highborn, and Cordial Vampire make the basis of a solid Vampire tribe, helping you gain life while killing other creatures and growing themselves in the process.
Dread Shade and Nantuko Shade can be as big as we need them to be, as long as we have the life to spare. Phyrexian Obliterator is just a bonkers card that’s probably worth paying 8 life for. Basal Thrull and Blood Pet can be sacrificed for mana when we need it, or exiled to Soul Exchange for a +2/+2 counter on a reanimated creature (how neat is that?)!
There are a ton more options to choose from, but hopefully these examples give you a good base to build upon. You may also want a Phyrexian Altar or Ashnod’s Altar so you can turn creatures you’ve cast into mana if necessary.
Actually Winning the Game
All this drawing, casting, and gaining is nice, but how should we win? The beautiful thing about K’rrik is that he really doesn’t care. If it’s a black-mana-focused strategy, K’rrik will help us make it happen. For instance, here’s a goofy combo: With K’rrik, Pestilence Demon can be activated by paying two life. That would normally kill us a lot faster than our opponents, but if we give the demon lifelink (with Whip of Erebos, for instance) all that damage becomes more life we can spend! However, the math can get very tricky: we’ll need to check how many activations K’rrik or Pestilence Demon can survive, whichever is less. Then we activate that many times, allowing them to resolve. After gaining the life from those activations (based on the number of creatures on the battlefield and the number of opponents we have), then we put as many activations on the stack as we can afford. Pestilence Demon will kill K’rrik and itself, but every activation will still deal its damage and we’ll still gain the life from it. Just make sure no one can Skullcrack you in response!
If we’ve cast enough black spells, K’rrik himself can be a win condition. Whispersilk Cloak offers safety from removal spells, and ensures K’rrik can get in for that lifelink damage unblocked.
That’s all I have for you this time. K’rrik enables us to have absolutely absurd turns, sometimes paying a hundred mana worth of life and ending up with even more than when we started! I hope you’ll use this article as inspiration for your own wacky Phyriexian brews, and let me know about them in the comments or on Twitter! Tune in next time, when we’ll talk about my commander deck “Literally Just Shadowborn Apostles™”!